When the first case of ebola was reported in west Africa in March of 2014, it created a wave of fear because it was spreading at a threatening pace, claiming lives at a faster rate than had ever been witnessed since it had been first discovered in 1976. Aside from providing factual reports of the increasing spread of the disease and updating death tolls, the CDC, the UN and the Canadian Red Cross (to name a few) also featured blogs on their websites as a means to educate the public about preventative efforts they are taking to fight ebola and the positive impacts they were making.
You can check out these blogs here:
CDC – Mapping for Ebola: A Collaborative Effort: http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2015/01/mapping-for-ebola-a-collaborative-effort/
UN – Building Trust to Combat Ebola: http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2015/01/mapping-for-ebola-a-collaborative-effort/
Red Cross – Video: Donations make a difference in the fight against Ebola: http://blogs.unicef.org.uk/2015/02/05/dont-forget-children-ebola-survivor/
However, although the message of hope has been spread through many of these blogs, which have been posted on the websites of credible organizations, there is the flip side to also take into account. An article in the Time Magazine prescribed the problem in the following manner:
Fear, Misinformation, and Social Media Complicate Ebola Fight
When the first case of ebola occurred in the US, this disease went “viral” on the other side of the globe. In this case, social media was doing more harm than benefit. Even though there was no alleged risk of ebola literally going viral in North America, there was a growing fear due to misinformation. It went as far as people dreaming up conspiracy theories, as featured in a blog post in the New York Times.
When ebola started receiving this kind of publicity, it left people feeling like this:
Nonetheless, others were still trying to make an effort to dispel the fear, and restore balance. An editorial in the Baylor Lariat did a fine job in framing the issue:
Don’t freak out: Ebola myths are more contagious than the virus
No doubt social media (including blogs) are a fair expression of the interests, hopes and, fears that the public were (and still are) experiencing during the ebola epidemic. It’s unfortunate when these powerful tools, that enable individuals to form groups, build networks and demonstrate solidarity, can cause so much havoc!
The Global Health Media Project, is one of many public health organizations which has demonstrated an excellent use of social media to promote education. When you subscribe to their blog, you are notified via email every time a new story is posted. This organization is committed to…
…creating videos to train health workers and serve communities worldwide
I was so impressed when I saw Global Health Media’s video called “The Story of Ebola”. Through a collaborative effort with other non-profit organizations that are committed to eradicating this disease, the Global Health Media created an animated film to educate communities in west Africa to cope with ebola and to teach them how to further prevent it from spreading by implementating simple precautionary measures. I enjoyed watching this short film, especially because the animation helps to bring this microscopic virus into a new light (by purposefully making it visible) and showing how easily it can spread. The young girl who narrated the video has an African accent which makes it very realistic – kudos to the director who decided to take cultural context into consideration. I think that this blog represents a great way for public health workers abroad to make use of social media to educate communities. What a great common ground for these key players in the battle against ebola to convene, share stories, find inspiration, and learn from each other. Check out the video posted below so you can see for yourself!